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Glynn Vivian presents The Russian Doll by Kristel Trow

Persephone, Kristel Trow, 2023

SWANSEA-BASED art gallery, Glynn Vivian presents, The Russian Doll by Kristel Trow on display from 23 March to 19 May, 2024.  

The Russian Doll is Kristel’s most intimate work to date, a series of new black and white photographic portraits of women who have experienced adversity in their lives. 

Inspired by the wartime photographers who carried their own portable darkrooms, the photographs have been developed in a specially designed camera, which sits in the belly of a Russian doll. Kristel was given a Russian Doll as a child, a recognisable object and a popular souvenir, and kept it until she moved into a women’s refuge herself. During this time her view of the object changed it became ‘a symbol of femininity and fertility and a caricature of how women are sometimes viewed and treated; like a personal ornament that can be picked up and put down.’  

Kristel has collaborated with women for this series of portraits which captures their intimate stories, many of which deal with violence including domestic, state, health. The installation takes you on an inner journey from trauma to recovery and highlights shared experiences through these women’s voices. Kristel has been working in close collaboration with women all over the country, within Wales and further afield such as Oxford, Dartmoor and the Eden Project, Cornwall. Each place has been chosen carefully with each collaborator, as a place that means something to each of these women.  

Handwritten texts presented alongside the images adds layers of narration, emotion, and reflection with quotes taken directly from the project’s participants. Multi award-winning writer and filmmaker, Will Millard, has also documented Kristel Trow’s journey to creating the work, this new film will also be on display.   

Kristel Trow, artist, said, “I have a story that’s authentic and I have taken a journey that many other people can and will take if they are open enough to keep going. Perhaps the bravest thing I’ve done during my darkest times is called myself an artist regardless.” 

Karen MacKinnon, Curator, Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, added, “This is such an important subject and it is vital art explores these stories, Kristel’s work sensitively engages with the subject, by empowering her collaborators to create new narratives.”